B&H Photo Video Pro Audio - Buying a Gift for a Home Theater Addict
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Cool Toys and Tools for Home Theater People
You don't have to be wealthy - but it helps...

By Daniel Canale-Parola

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Recreating the cinema experience at home is a thrilling experience for home theater enthusiasts - but it isn't a cheap one. If you've decided to treat someone to a home theater-related gift you should be a) commended for your generosity and forward-thinking ways and b) prepared to shell out some fairly big bucks.

Gifts for under a grand

That said, there are some gifts that your friend will appreciate that are south of the four-figure mark. To start, check out Harmony Logitech's new 890 Universal Remote Control. Although traditional in shape, the 890 sports many advanced features like a full color LCD screen, backlit buttons, RF functionality (which means you can change channels in the TV room from the upstairs bathroom) and a recharging station - no more dead batteries.

Set-up of the remote is easily accomplished by attaching it to your computer via USB and entering the model numbers of your components on a web-wizard. Once programmed, even non-technical folks can run the home theater by pushing activity-based buttons like "watch TV", "listen to CD", "play game" etc. See also the similar Harmony 880 (which, however, does not have RF capability).

The Logitech Harmony 890 Universal Remote Control

If you live with a home theater enthusiast, but don't share the enthusiasm, consider the blissful isolation provided by Pioneer's Infra-red Dolby Digital 5.1 Wireless Headphone System. Set-up the small wireless transmitter and strap the headphones onto your loved one's head. They can crank their favorite movies, and hear everything in beautiful 5.1 surround sound that meets or exceeds the separation of a conventional surround sound speaker system, without disturbing the outside world.

Panasonic Surround Sound Headphones
Panasonic's DMR-ES15S DVD Player and Recorder

Your loved one might also enjoy an upgrade to Panasonic's slick DMR-ES15S DVD player and recorder (I know I would). Use it like a VCR to record TV (you can schedule recordings ahead of time) or hook up your Camcorder via an IE1399 cable and burn home videos directly to DVD for viewing or sharing. The unit also has a very cool VCR-like feature which lets you select from XP, SP, LP and EP recording modes to stretch the max recording time on a DVD (choose "Flexible Recording" and the recorder automatically finds the best recording time according to the length of the program you are recording). The player also supports all the various +/- R/RW DVD format combos and has progressive output - sweet!

If your friend owns an iPod check out DLO's very cool HomeDock Deluxe for iPod that integrates iPods into home theater systems. Hook the dock up to your A/V receiver, plop in your dockable iPod and experience your iPod's music, photos and movies through your TV using an elegant visual interface and the provided remote . The iPod charges while in the dock and can be synched with your computer if you add a USB cable.

DLO's HomeDock Deluxe for iPod

If your friend is still getting sound from TV speakers a nice surround sound package would make an excellent gift. Sometimes referred to as "Home Theater in a Box", these systems bundle powerful A/V receivers with perfectly matched surround sound speakers (some also come with DVD players). There are a wide variety of styles including some that are very low-profile for those odd folks who don't like to flaunt their components. Give us a call if you need help choosing the right system for your needs.

If you know someone who likes to set up an outdoor home theater during the warm weather months, or just likes listening to music outdoors, make their day by getting them a pair of Jamo Rock outdoor speakers. These weather-proof rock-shaped speakers sound great and come in an assortment of colors. Jamo is so confident in the quality of their speakers that they provide a 7-year warranty. These also work great for scaring the heck out of unsuspecting neighborhood animals.

These Outdoor Speakers Rock

Higher end gifts

Increasingly home theater enthusiasts are turning to computers to power their entertainment systems. The Sony Vaio VGX-XL2, which looks like an A/V component, is built expressly for this purpose - it is extremely quiet, so as not to distract viewers, and it comes with a remote and other HT-oriented features. Your friend can surf the web, download content, watch DVD movies, record TV shows digitally, listen to music and yes, even play computer games. The system comes with a 200 CD/DVD changer so your friend won't have to risk jail time for burning commercial DVDs to a hard drive.

Maybe your loved one calls their old 80s Zenith TV hooked up to a Radio Shack stereo a "home theater" but you know better - treat him or her to the real thing! There are countless big screen TVs and video projectors to choose from - here are a few of my personal favorites:

The Panasonic TH-42PX60U 42" Viera Plasma HDTV is an elegant HDTV with all the right stuff: very high contrast, a built-in HD tuner, 2 HDMI digital inputs and an SD slot to view photos. The set is also available with a 50" or 58" screen sizes for that bigger screen experience.

The Panasonic TH-42PX60U (top)
The Sony KDS-60A2000

Sony's Hidden HT - The Low-key TAV-L1

Viewers who want an even larger screen with awesome picture quality should check out Sony's KDS-60A2000 60" Grand WEGA SXRD HDTV which uses SXRD technology to create its stunning, high contrast image. Sony's TAV-L1, an elegantly hidden HDTV-based music and home theater system, would also make a nice gift (I hope someone I know is reading this...).

On the video projection side of things there are several units that deserve a hard look. Optoma's sleek white HD72 is a great HD DLP technology unit for watching TV, DVDs, HD-DVD or Blu-ray discs, playing games and more. It has an understated modern design and is very quiet (no loud fans to distract you). Best of all, it produces an enormous, high contrast, sharp-as-a-tack HD image with highly saturated colors. B&H also carries two of the most highly-regarded HD LCD projectors for home theater: the Panasonic PT-AX100U and Sanyo's PLV-Z5.

The Panasonic PT-AX100U HT Projector

The Optoma HD72 HT Projector

Bargain hunters should check out last year's budget home theater king the Infocus Screenplay 4805 (which does an excellent job with HD signals despite not having full HD resolution), and the Infocus IN72 which is similar to the 4805 on the inside but has a much more attractive case.

If, on the other hand, money is no object, pick up Sony's VPL-VW100 SXRD HD Projector (known by its fans as "Ruby") or Optoma's two-piece HD81 Projector (and please send me an invitation to your screenings).

Last but not least, if you know someone with an HD or HD-ready TV or projector, make them extremely happy by picking up an HD-DVD or Blu-ray disc player.

There it is - good luck to you and your loved ones and happy holidays! Any questions or complaints? Drop me an email.

Still not sure? Try these related gift categories:

- Home Entertainment
(Apple Computers, Accessories and iPods)
- Universal Remote Controls
- Plasma Televisions
- LCD Televisions
- CRT Televisions
- Home Theater Projectors
- Projector Screens
- TV, VCR & DVD Combos

- PC-TV Tuners & Video Capture Hardware
- Portable Televisions
- Home Entertainment Furniture & Rackmounts

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